A beginners guide to SketchUp

In this post we are going to look at everything you need to know to get started with SketchUp. We are also going to offer some useful hints, tips and resources for those of you who already use SketchUp but want to take things to the next level.

In this post we cover:

  • Why SketchUp
  • Getting Set Up
  • Learning the Basics
  • Using Plugins and Extensions
  • Using the 3D warehouse
  • Thinking about Renders
  • Useful Resources and Further Learning


Image courtesy of sketchup.com

Why SketchUp?

Lets take a moment and look at what SketchUp can actually do, and how it can help you.


SketchUp is a super intuitive, easy to learn 3D drawing tool. The potential for this software is endless, and once you have picked up the basics you will start to realise what SketchUp can do for you and how your designs can come to life.


SketchUp allows you to create accurate scaled 2D and 3D drawings. Once you get to grips with the basics, you can start to pick up the concept and workflow very quickly. What does this mean? You can start getting results, fast.


Take it a step further with SketchUp Pro and you can arrange your drawings, elevations, plans and sections using LayOut, with title blocks, details and graphics that allow for live updating. You can also use LayOut to generate presentations, vector illustrations and more.


SketchUp Pro also allows you to create walkthroughs, flyovers and animations.


If you are looking for inspiration, there are hundreds of videos on YouTube that showcase SketchUp and all the amazing things you can do with it! I am sharing a couple below that I really find inspiring.


Getting set up

You’ve made the decision to give it a whirl! Let’s get SketchUp installed on your machine!


To download SketchUp head over to https://www.sketchup.com/download to download the software. SketchUp is available in two versions, a freeware version, SketchUp Make and a paid version SketchUp Pro which has additional functionality.


Download the version you require and follow the installation steps.

Image courtesy of sketchup.com

Learning the Basics

Given the popularity of SketchUp it is no wonder there is an abundance of support and help out there for newbies. I have come across some really great tutorials that will help get you started.


The first place I would visit is the SketchUp Learning Centre.


Here you will have access to a great selection of video tutorials. Follow the link below to go to the videos, or watch the first video below from SketchUp that will help you get started.




You can also visit the sketchup YouTube Channel.


A couple of other great YouTube channels to check out would be SketchUp School and MasterSketchUp

A great way to get the most out of SketchUp is to use the keyboard shortcuts. It speeds up your modelling time and can be a very efficient way of working. Samantha has put together a great page with all the shortcuts in one place. Check out the SketchUp Keyboard Shortcuts here.

Using Plugins and Extensions

Not only is SketchUp pretty great on its own, you can also benefit from the SketchUp Extension Warehouse. There are also other places you can find great extensions, one of them being the Sketchucation extensions store. Using extensions and plugins is essentially a way to turbo charge your SketchUp! Some plugins and extensions are free and some are paid – but the chances are, whatever you are looking for, you will find it on there. I have written a post about some of the Best SketchUp Plugins but I will also tell you a bit more about them now.


An example of the kind of thing you can install would be:


1001bit Tools – a free extension that allows you to create staircases, spiral stairs, windows, doors, walls, roofs and so on.


Skalp – a live section tool – a paid extension but very popular one.

This link provides you with information on how to add an extension to your SketchUp


And this one looks at how to install Ruby Plugins

Using the 3D warehouse

Another amazing thing you can do with SketchUp! The 3D Warehouse is home to millions of models that users have created in SketchUp and share on the 3D warehouse platform, absolutely free. You can access the warehouse from right inside SketchUp – with models ranging from furniture items, to windows, to full buildings and construction elements – it is an immense database of useful items. Along with this, suppliers also share their products in 3D – the likes of Witt Kitchens, Marvin Windows and Doors, Sterling sanitary ware and more.


Look for the icons in the image below to find the 3D warehouse and the Extension warehouse. Once you have found the item you are looking for you can download it directly into the model you are working on – super simple.

Thinking about renders

So, rendering is where the magic really happens. To give you an idea of what you can achieve with renders in SketchUp here are a couple of images to inspire!

Image courtesy of Chaos Group

Image courtesy of Chaos Group


Image courtesy of Chaos Group

Image courtesy of Chaos Group


I love this SketchUp Time-Lapse from Aaron Bishop. He has some great videos on his YouTube channel.

There are many different render softwares and extensions out there some of which include:

  • V-Ray
  • Thea Render
  • Maxwell
  • SU Podium
  • Twilight Render
  • Kerkythea
  • Indigo
  • And more!

Useful resources, further learning


So, what next?


There is lots of information out there – here are a few things that might be useful to you.


Matt Donley from Master Sketchup has now written two great books which I highly recommend. You can read my review on SketchUp and  Layout for Architecture here


Rendering in SketchUp – Daniel Tal


SketchUp for Site Design – Daniel Tal


SketchUp Workflow for Architecture – Michael Brightman



SketchUp Artists – Brilliant website consisting of everything you need and want to know about sketchup. They have a spotlight on artists, modellers, plugins and recommend books. The website also presentation technique and style page, along with tonnes of tips, tricks and tutorials. Well worth a visit.


SketchUcation – is a community and resource centre for SketchUp users. They have a very active Forum covering a mountain of SketchUp related topics. They have lots of resources and also feature a plugin store. There is a premium version of the site also.


Lynda.com – this is a site I have used on and off for about 8 years now. It offers a vast array of high quality tutorials on a number of subjects, including of course SketchUp. It is a monthly subscription service, but in my opinion well worth the money.

Checkout SketchUp School, where they have a wealth of tutorials but also this great Guide to Getting Started with SketchUp.



So, this just about sums up our beginners guide to SketchUp. As you can see – there is a whole lot of information out there, which is sometimes a bit overwhelming. Having said that, if you get stuck, there is always a video, or an article somewhere on the web that will help you get unstuck. In the meantime, you can admire all the amazing things people create using SketchUp!


Best of luck!


Other recent posts…

Space Planning Basics

Space Planning Basics

Introduction   Space planning is a complex process with many factors to consider. The principles of space planning involve satisfying a defined criteria on a priority basis – as a result, space planning is frequently about compromise. That being said, there is...

Form Follows Function

Form Follows Function

Introduction   ‘Form follows Function’ is a popular architectural principle that was first introduced in 1896 by American architect Louis H. Sullivan (1856–1924) in his essay ‘The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered’. It was actually shortened from the...

Permitted Development Rights for House Extensions

Permitted Development Rights for House Extensions

Introduction to Permitted Development Rights When extending a house in the UK, understanding Permitted Development rights is essential. These rights allow certain building works and changes to be carried out without the need for a full planning application,...